Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beatrice Arthur, 1922-2009. R.I.P.

Actress Beatrice Arthur, best known for her roles on the 1970s TV sitcom Maude and the 1980s TV sitcom The Golden Girls, has died of cancer. She was 86.

You might recall that 9 months ago her Golden Girls co-star Estelle Getty died. It's interesting that Getty played Arthur's mother in the series despite the fact Arthur was born a year before Getty.

I've seen a few episodes of Maude in re-runs but when I think of Bea Arthur I think of The Golden Girls which might be the best TV series of that decade. Arthur played Dorothy Zbornak. Before the series aired my Dad thought it would a cheap rip off of the movie Going In Style with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. But my father quickly changed his mind. He made observation that because the characters were older women they got away with saying things that would have been censored if uttered by a younger character.

Her voice had a deep resonance which she put to good use. The Golden Girls was at its best with Dorothy's sarcastic remarks toward to the flirtatious Blanche (played by Rue McClanahan) and the dim witted Rose (played by Betty White) especially when she told stories about St. Olaf.

Years ago I knew a fellow named Andrew Stone. He's written a couple of fiction books and on occasion he would show up at the Out Of The Blue Gallery in Cambridge, one of the places where I used to read poetry. Before becoming a novelist, Stone worked on The Golden Girls as a production assistant and did some writing for them as well. I recall him telling me how friendly and funny she was both on set and off. He also recounted housesitting for her.

Bea Arthur and The Golden Girls were at their funniest when sitting at a table.

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